It is beyond surprising for me that only one third of people plans to eat the pumpkins that they hollow and carve for Halloween celebration. There is even a #PumpkinRescue movement!
Pumpkin – a neglected super veg?
I must confess I did not pay much respect to Pumpkin as a kid. I also don’t remember seeing many pumpkins grown or sold. It probably has to do with the fact that I grew up in the south, so my main memories of pumpkin are pumpkin seeds that one could get in a herbal apothecary to use against worms!
Pumpkin seeds can be eaten fresh or lightly roasted, half a table spoon a day with meals. Avoid large amounts if there is Ama or Kapha aggravation.
My true love for pumpkin was evoked on a dark November day in Germany where my friends cooked a Samhain meal. It included pumpkin soup and baked pumpkin, which was first soaked in soya sauce, then sprinkled with sesame seeds and then baked with a bit of olive oil. I found that simple meal to be the best for that cold, wet, dark time of the year. “Comfort food” they call it here, which resonates with the Ayurvedic definition of healthy food: local, seasonal, adjusted as per digestive strength, constitution, time of the year and period of life. Ayurvedically speaking, pumpkin is rather good for all constitutions. Because some varieties can be very watery, people with Kapha aggravation and Ama should make sure they eat it with proper “warm” spices (cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, fenugreek leaves, rosemary, thyme, lovage etc), and include something dry in their meal.
Chemically speaking, pumpkin mainly consists of water, carbohydrates, small amounts of proteins and fats, different minerals, vitamins A and C and some other useful molecules. Check here and here for some serious reports on pumpkin chemistry. Pumpkin seeds have a significant amount of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids, as well as several forms of tocopherol and phenolic acids (check here for details). Again, looking at things Ayurvedically, it only matters what good stuff a product has if we can digest it! Pumpkin also has lots of fibre so it is good for bowel movements, so you don’t need to buy that “super” psyllium husk, isn’t it great?
Different varieties of pumpkins have different composition and taste. Some are best boiled and blended into a soup, some are best baked or roasted. As far as I have tested, one can eat seeds from all edible pumpkin varieties. Just collect them as you are processing a pumpkin, separate them from the pulp, wash with water (I usually skip this one), put it on a tray and keep in a dry warm place for a few days until dry. If this is too much, you can process them directly following this recipe.
My personal favourite is this green pumpkin variety (Delica F1) that has very strong sweet flesh and a delicate nutty flavour. You can certainly cook it with the skin if you know that it was not chemically treated. I grow my own or buy it from an organic local farmer, so I know where it comes from.
Do pumpkins only grow in China?
Speaking of the origin of our foods… Finding pumpkin seeds that are not sourced from China turned out to be a real quest. All suppliers that I checked in Cambridgeshire only stock Chinese pumpkin seeds! Yes, I know about globalisation and production costs but isn’t it just “a bit” weird? To trash your own home grown stuff and then buy it from far far away? In addition, having seen how polluted some Asian countries are, I don’t quite believe in organic production over there, with some exceptions. So, in general, I personally prefer local non-organic products to distant organic ones.
Just imagine you are holding a boring piece of rock in your hands. You don’t know it, but there is a large diamond sitting inside that rock and you are about to throw the whole thing away… Maybe think about it next time you trash your pumpkin? And maybe use it or at least give it away to someone who will enjoy it, like wild animals somewhere in a field or forest?